The Crochet Lesson

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In the mid-90’s, I was living away from home for the first time and becoming increasingly interested in making photographs. This was the decade I experimented with my parents honeymoon camera, a Voigtländer Perkeo I,  which led to my first twin lens reflex a Minolta Autocord followed by my favorite camera, the Rolleiflex Automat TLR.

In the past I have avoided talking gear for fear of betraying my camera nerdery. At some point in the 1990’s, maybe around 1997, I went over to my parents house. My mom was crocheting on the back porch which is a slab of concrete that is sheltered from the sun by the second story deck which overlooks Mission Bay. I had the Rolleiflex, a set of close-up lenses and a desire to photograph my mom’s hands, the yarn she used to crochet and the fabric of her dress.

Six frames were dedicated to a close-up of her trying to teach me a pearl stitch. I don’t remember why the portrait session had turned into a knitting lesson. Maybe it was a strategy for me get permission to photograph her. More than likely, it was my attempt to photograph the steps of the pearl stitch so that I could try it on my own. Maybe it was the bachelor in me thinking that in the future I would need to crochet a pair of socks or a sweater.

I must have grown impatient with the TLR and its parallax which made the framing of objects close to the camera an educated guess, for partway through the roll, I made two images of my mom from a converstational distance. Only two before going back to make four more attempts at recording the yarn on her lap.

Only a contact sheet was made of the Crochet Lesson. I never made individual prints of her hands. Next month as part of an exhibition of portraits of parents, I am including a reprinted version of this contact sheet made on a paper I used to print with during the 1990’s, Oriental Seagull Variable Contrast Glossy (the one in the blue box with the purple sticker).

My name is Francis Schanberger and I am a photo nerd.

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Somewhat Abstract

Today, I return to a favorite subject: Trash. For many years now I have looked longingly at prints rescued from the trash. These are prints that may or may not have recognizable “lens-based” content but usually exhibit some sort of insufficient chemical processing. Often the silver appears to be plating out into swirls of iridescent or gold. They are unloved and transient; changing even as they are photographed especially if they are scanned. Gone if one tries to fix them with hypo.

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darkroom (deceptively) in use

It’s going to get a little quiet on the blog as I feverishly work to put together a portfolio for a review on Wednesday. I think anyone at the start of a residency has romantic visions of creating new work that could not have been done anywhere else. or should I say, thought that way?

It seems like many of my manic habits are here in Boston. Reprinting things. Wrestling with humidity and the specifics qualities of the local water supply. Trying to print a specific size. Lamenting the way a printer lays down ink. Cursing myself for buying budget transparency material for printing the negatives.

The new challenge this time around: the only room I don’t have key access to is the darkroom in which I print the larger vandyke browns and where I process the spent fixer. In order to prevent the campus safety from locking it (I have to walk up and down five flights of stairs to ask them to re-open it) I have resorted to deception. It has become a game of making the darkroom look like it’s in use when I am in another room printing a negative or exposing a VDB, in the studio cutting down negatives or tearing sheets or working in Photoshopto get the scan into a form ready to print.

How do I deceive? Powering up a boombox that is tuned to WGBH (lots of jazz in the evenings). Turning the cylindrical darkroom door so that it looks like I have entered the darkroom. Finally, turning on the “darkroom in use sign”.